Can Genetics Affect Your Reaction to Coffee?
Life is good for coffee connoisseurs. Studies over the past couple of decades link coffee consumption to health benefits. Drinking coffee can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and various cancers.
Caffeine is also known to increase focus and stimulate work performance. Add those positive factors to the “wake me up” effect triggered by caffeine, and drinking a cup of java can be likened to swallowing an ultra-vitamin.
The word “can,” however, leaves room for other caffeinated considerations. How each individual reacts to coffee is determined by his or her DNA. Your genetic make-up dictates whether coffee tantalizes your taste buds and appeals to your sense of smell—or not.
Maybe you are addicted to coffee. Maybe you don’t touch the stuff. Maybe you enjoy the scent of a brewing pot of coffee, but have an aversion to its taste. Maybe you drink one cup a day with zero temptation to drink more. Whatever your position when it comes to an iced or steaming cup of java, variants in your DNA hold the key.
It could be that you avoid coffee due to variations in a single nucleotide—only you recognize those, not as genetic variants, but as side effects like nausea, anxiety, and insomnia. Metabolism plays a significant role when it comes to how our bodies respond to caffeine.
CYP1A2 and AHR are key genes in the metabolic process. They control the quantity of caffeine that circulates in the blood stream and the amount of time it hangs around. CYP1A2 is a liver enzyme that metabolizes most of the caffeine we consume. AHR is the gene that controls how much of the enzyme we generate.
In other words, genes dictate the rate by which you metabolize caffeine. Quick metabolizers have less risk of hypertension and heart issues. For those who process caffeine at faster rates, negative side effects—if they occur—are not long-lasting. Quick metabolizers have the luxury of enjoying multiple cups of coffee while benefiting from each antioxidant-laden sip.
On the flip side, the slower the body processes caffeine, the longer the stimulant remains active. Side effects like nausea, insomnia, and anxiety can result in greater intensity, as well as an increased risk for heart attack and hypertension.
The good news is that DNA testing reveals such gene mutations, and epigenetics coaches can counsel you on how you can change your gene expression. The fix for the CYP1A2 mutation that slows the metabolism of caffeine might be as simple as reducing your caffeine intake. Or, to lower the risks of serious health conditions, your epigenetics coach may advise that caffeine be avoided altogether.
How your body reacts to coffee is one small example of a broad spectrum of exterior stimuli that can be examined through DNA testing. While research supports coffee as an antioxidant, the science of epigenetics must also consider habits like smoking or excessive drinking that can counteract those health benefits. An epigenetics coach will compile all test results with lifestyle factors that include diet, sleep patterns, and stress levels to provide you with a personalized plan to optimize your overall health.
And, if your CYP1A2 is plentiful, you can snag a cuppa joe around nearly every corner.
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